Clemson hoping for ‘signature win’ vs. Florida State

Florida State already owns an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.

Clemson still has work to do in that regard.

The Tigers, in dire need of a “signature win,” will get that opportunity Saturday when 19th-ranked Florida State plays at Clemson at noon in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at a sold-out Littlejohn Coliseum.

Clemson is seeking its first victory against a Top 25 opponent since Littlejohn reopened last year following a major renovation.

“We know we will have to play with a ton of energy Saturday against a talented Florida State team,” Clemson Coach Brad Brownell said.

No argument there. The Seminoles are an NCAA Tournament lock at 22-6 overall and a 10-5 record in the ACC.

Clemson, at 14-13 overall and 4-11 in league play, needs to win each of its three remaining games — all of which will be played at Littlejohn Coliseum — and do some damage in the upcoming ACC Tournament to land in NCAA Tournament consideration.

Clemson hasn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2011, Brownell’s first season.

The Seminoles score at a gaudy 84.4 point-per-game clip, but also know how to play defense. Florida State ranks fourth in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, so plenty of challenges await the Tigers.

There is a glimmer of hope for Clemson — namely, because the Seminoles haven’t exactly fared well on the ACC road. Florida State is 2-5 in league road games this season and is just 11-19 at Littlejohn Coliseum all-time.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to have a mad Tiger, a motivated Tiger, that’s out to do a lot of damage,” Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said, whose team enters the game in a four-way tie for second place in the ACC standings.

Indeed, Clemson should have plenty of motivation, thanks to a 48-point loss at Florida State last month that ranks as the most lopsided of Brownell’s seven-year career at Clemson. That crushing loss prompted a postgame apology from Brownell.

“We just didn’t play at all,” Brownell said.

Clemson has lost five of its last six games, but it’s not like the Tigers haven’t been competitive. Included in those defeats are three games decided by two points or less, including a pair of one-point losses.

In all, Clemson has lost eight of its 11 league games by six points or less.

“It’s hard, it’s challenging — no doubt about it,” Brownell said. “When you put so much into all of these games and play well for a bunch of minutes and then don’t make a play to win it.

“As good as we are physically, it’s the emotional part of it that makes it really hard.”

Florida State represents the 19th consecutive opponent that the Tigers have played that is ranked among the Top 100 in RPI; the Seminoles are No. 13, while Clemson is No. 60.

“If you’re them, you’re saying, ‘If we get these three home games against this competition, we might have a chance to finish the season on a positive note,” Hamilton said. “And we’re next up.”